Ballot boxes can be opened after 5pm – GECOM

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The Guyana Elections Commission has taken a decision to permit the opening of ballot boxes after 17:00hrs, amid concerns that the work stations are stopping the count too early.

Those concerns were raised primarily by agents of the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C).

The early stoppage was, however, justified, with GECOM’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) previously explaining that because of the sequential order in which the boxes are being counted, it would be better to stop the count early than to open a box and not be able to complete it before the 19:00hrs cutoff time for the exercise.

But during a meeting yesterday, GECOM made a decision to allow ballot boxes to be opened after 17:00hrs.

Ward explained that the decision was to have the counting stations be able to not adhere strictly to the sequential opening of the boxes and to be able to check the containers holding the boxes to search for one that is identified as containing a smaller number of votes.

This is in order to be able to complete the ballot box before the 19:00h cutoff point since once a box is opened the counting cannot be stopped until that box is completed and the Statement of Recount (SoR) generated.

Ward told reporters “while we will try to stick to that same 17:00h mark but you will narrow it down to make sure that we select a box that may have a small number of ballots.”

As such, the sequential criteria would be essentially suspended at 17:00h in order to break from the rules previously agreed upon.

The GECOM PRO indicated that the counting stations would have to work out a modality on how they would go about selecting which box is to be opened at that 17:00h timeline, “so that it is completed by 19:00h.”

She said too that another of the decisions taken by the Commission was to have the observation reports being made during the recount process documented in language to reflect the reality of allegations being made without evidence.

Ward drew reference to reports and complaints by party agents related to accusations of dead or migrated persons that voted during the March 2 polls.

The GECOM PRO said that persons objected to the reports that had been articulated to sound as though the allegations being made were facts without the evidence being presented.

Another of the substantial decisions taken by the Commission during its meeting on Sunday is to have three party agents present in the tabulation centre for the tallying of the SoRs.